Atlantic City Restaurant Reviews: Send in the Clones

Philly loves Buddakan and Continental; Boston loves Sonsie. But can these urban living rooms thrive in A.C.'s new Pier?

The service can be exasperating, the patio tables are too small for sharing multiple plates, and the food is often too salty, but the Continental is so cute that it’s hard to stay mad at it. The mid-century modern look and two well-stocked bars encourage good humor. A seat next to the sunken fire pit on the patio is prime for people-watching. It’s a comfortably low-key setting, attracting customers who want to be cool, but feel intimidated by Buddakan. The menu, executed by former Continental Midtown chef Sean Joyce, has plenty of crossover from Philadelphia’s two Continentals, and the youthful vibe that pulses through those spots can be felt here as well.

Our "Kobe" sliders arrive suspiciously fast, suggesting they might have been cooked ahead. Buttery buns and Russian dressing offset the slightly dry meat. The swordfish tacos are better, holding juicy fish flash-fried to crisp a plantain crumb coating, dressed with chipotle aioli. Fried spring rolls filled with lobster, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts need more lobster. French onion dumplings, blanketed with gruyère and baked in an escargot dish, are fun to eat — and salty.

Desserts are the best part of the meal. I can’t help but smile at the sight of the Sunny Side Up, silky coconut panna cotta with mango gelée, arranged to look like two fried eggs. The Melted Fudgesicle is dense, delicious and maddening, a firm chocolate mousse in a tiny glass jar with a spoon too large for the opening — more evidence that food isn’t the focus here. But after a couple of daiquiri martinis, who notices?

BOSTON’S SCENESTER CLUBHOUSE Sonsie has partied hearty for 13 years on Newbury Street, thriving on a colorful cast of regulars and occasional celebrity drop-ins. The Atlantic City branch will need to do some marketing to develop its own resident ensemble, because the local cocktail crowd doesn’t know Sonsie nearly as well as it does Buddakan and Continental.